activism business corporate responsibility

Fire your bank on November 5th

In Britain, the 5th of November is Guy Fawkes Night, which commemorates the failure of a plot to blow up the House of Parliament in 1605. It’s traditionally celebrated with fireworks, bonfires, and the burning in effigy of the aforementioned and rather unfortunate Mr Fawkes. Fawke’s other legacy is the Guy Fawke’s Mask, as drawn by Alan Moore and popularised by the film V for Vendetta. The smiling papist’s face has become the unofficial mascot of  anti-bank protestors.

Given this new association, it’s fitting that November 5th has been chosen for Bank Transfer Day. It’s a day to send a message to the banking establishment by moving your account to an ethical bank.

This is a great idea, and if you haven’t already moved to an ethical bank, can I encourage you to do so. Mainstream banks have profit as their first concern, because they have shareholders to satisfy. They will put money – your money – to work wherever the returns are good. It might mean that your savings are being used to fund tar sands in Canada, clear forests in Indonesia, or sell weapons to the Middle East.

That’s not just unethical behaviour from the banks, because it’s the customers that give them the deposits t0 play with. We each have a responsibility to make sure that our own money, however much we have, is used to do good in the world rather than bad.

Then there’s the issue of renumeration. Many of our top banking executives pay themselves enormous salaries, far beyond any justification. Then there are the bonuses, apparently paid out whether it’s a good year or not. The vast billions of taxpayers’ money poured into the banks has not made them any more responsive to the needs of ordinary people.

There are more ethical banks however. For one thing, you could move your money to a mutual. These are banks that are owned by their customers, and there are 49 of them in the UK to choose from. My own article on ethical banks is here. US readers should check out the Move Your Money Project here, while the BankerBonuses site also lists ethical banks in Germany, France and elsewhere.

This saturday, fire your bank. Put your money somewhere better, and let’s send a clear signal to the banking profession that we expect better ethical standards from them.

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